In an effort to push Hamas into returning two Israelis it is detaining and the remains of two soldiers, Israel announced on Sunday it would no longer return the remains of deceased militants, choosing to bury them instead.
Israel’s high-level security cabinet voted unanimously on Sunday to stop handing the remains of Hamas militants killed in battle back to the group, and will bury them instead, in response to Hamas continuing to hold two Israelis and the remains of two soldiers.
While Israel has made several offers to Hamas since the 2014 incursion into Gaza to try to stop terror attacks to get both back, Hamas has refused all offers.
“The political-security cabinet discussed standing policy on treatment of the bodies of Hamas terrorists killed during terror attacks and decided that they will not be returned, but will be buried,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
The two soldiers, Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin, are believed by Israel to have been killed during the 2014 Gaza war before being captured. Hamas taunted Israel and the soldier’s families Saturday with the release of a video footage of a fake birthday party for Shaul, which led to the decision by the Israeli cabinet.
The other two men, Avraham Mengistu and Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima, crossed into Gaza on their own and were picked up by Hamas. Israel has made offers to trade dozens of Gazans in exchange for the two, but Hamas has refused the offers.
Israel said it will bury the bodies of Hamas militants, but they say the bodies can be exhumed and given back to the group if they come to an agreement about exchanges at some point.